How To Make Your Own DIY Vented Laptop Tray

Tim Lenahan 20-08-2010

Laptops have become a very important part of our lives.  We take them almost everywhere which means that we can get work done almost no matter where we are.  This also means that our trusty lappies are subjected to all sorts of interesting situations.  We use them on desks, in bed, in the car, outside, and even on planes.


Some of these situations would not be as feasible without some sort of laptop tray. Laptop trays make the versatility of the laptop that much more versatile.  But what is the point of a laptop tray?  Well, there are several.

Laptop trays can make using the laptop more convenient.  For instance, have you ever attempted to use your laptop in the driver’s seat of a parked car with the steering wheel in the way?  They make trays for that.  What about while sitting in bed or on the couch?  They also make trays for that.

If you get the right tray, it can also save you or the laptop from harm.  You see, since laptops vent hot air, they need a tray that will not hinder the flow of air.  Otherwise the laptop could overheat which damages it, or even more importantly, you could get burned.  A laptop tray could aid you in this area.

There are several areas you need to consider when looking to acquire a laptop tray.

  • How much air flow is allowed in the area where the laptop’s air is vented?  Make sure nothing is in the way that could either get hot or block the air flow altogether.
  • How far off the surface (ie. desk or lap) will the laptop be lifted?  This could be for ventilation or just protecting you from the heat.
  • How comfortable will the tray make your computing?
  • How versatile is it?  Can it adapt to different users or situations?
  • How portable is it?  What if you need to travel?

In this article I am going to share with you several plans for making your own vented laptop tray (around here we like tech-related DIY projects).  Your situation will dictate which tray you choose to make.


1.  The “Type-In-Bed” Laptop Tray

This type of laptop tray has been on the market for quite some time but why would you want to buy one of these (broken link removed)…

DIY computer lap top tray

…when you can make one?

diy lap top tray


This person decided not to bite on one of those store-bought varieties and decided to make their own.  You can follow the instructions and do it yourself, too.  You’ll notice though, that there is no venting going on so the air probably won’t have any place to go but into the computer components and the wood.  Vent this baby using a drill and you’re all set!

2. The Cop-Style Car Tray

Have you ever wondered about those “no cell phones while driving” laws but noticed how police cars always have their laptops mounted and facing them while driving?  The truth of it is that they probably only use them when pulled over.  You can probably also think of various uses for a laptop while traveling by vehicle.  For instance, if you do garage sales a lot and you’d like to be able to check prices.

This dude grabbed some PVC pipe and went at making his own tray for his truck.

laptop tray


It looks so easy to do that even I could probably pull it off.

3. The Laptop Tray For Your Lap

This person decided he would make it possible to use his laptop on his lap.  Who would have thought of that? (via Lifehacker)

laptop tray

With just a few twist-ties, some left over shelving and a few tee shirts for padding, you’ll be in comfort heaven while computing on your lap.  I like how the wire shelving works great at letting the laptop vent its air.


If all you need is some added ventilation when working at a desk, why not try a few rubber doorstops just to get some distance between the laptop and the desk?  I’ve also used books so you can be creative.

What do you use as a laptop stand?  What about keeping your laptop cool?  Please share your secrets in the comments!

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  1. Marcus on PC
    November 4, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    I am not a fan of laptop coolers. Adds so much more clutter around it when a clean look is so much more appealing. Why not downclock instead? I did it on my laptop and reduced temperatures by 11c! You can easily do it within a minute in windows power plan.
    Go check out “Cool your Laptop CPU down by 11 degrees Celsius!” on youtube. You can thank me later!

  2. Geoboy88
    September 22, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    I use a traditional type of clipboard flipped upside down.

  3. laptopim
    September 19, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    I love the ideas .. But Laptop trays and stands are so cheap these days that they might cost less than the materials needed to make one.
    On this website there are numerous models and shipping is available worldwide:

  4. Rebecca Moi
    August 23, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    I use a cooking-cooling rack.

    • Aibek
      August 23, 2010 at 5:02 pm


  5. Fran Cisco
    August 22, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    i use a dish distiller , the ones used when u need to air dry dishes after u hand wash them ,

  6. Fran Cisco
    August 22, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    i use a dish distiller , the ones used when u need to air dry dishes after u hand wash them ,

  7. Anonymous
    August 22, 2010 at 8:47 am

    After pricing laptop stands, I went to the dollar store and found some rubber doorstops (5 for $1.29 + tax) that worked. I'm amused to see that so many other people also used rubber doorstops. I just pushed four of them partly under my netbook to lift it so that there's air flow underneath, two in back and two on the sides, so it isn't an elegant solution, but they'll keep it from burning up until I rig or buy a better stand.

    • timmyjohnboy
      August 22, 2010 at 10:59 am

      Good job! Why spend the doe if you can figure it out on your own?

  8. Saikat Basu
    August 22, 2010 at 4:48 am

    That's what I have always wondered. At least in my country, brands don't come with built in elevations. In my opinion, it should.

  9. Saikat Basu
    August 21, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    My first laptop "tray" was the edge of a book. Served me just fine till I decided to go and buy a proper one. Nice post, Tim. We usually underestimate the value of a laptop tray.

    • timmyjohnboy
      August 21, 2010 at 5:06 pm

      I used a small marker board for a bit. It didn't really lift it off the table much but it kept the vents clear while on my lap. The built in feet on my laptop are pretty good already.

  10. Aibek
    August 21, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Tim, thanks for the post, some nice suggestions here. In case you're interested I found a few more ideas for DIY laptop stand on LifeHacker.

    • timmyjohnboy
      August 21, 2010 at 5:04 pm

      Thanks. I notice it has the cork idea's pic you were looking for.

      • Aibek
        August 21, 2010 at 7:05 pm

        yup, I saw it after the comment.

  11. Cate Eales
    August 21, 2010 at 2:02 am

    A great DIY project is: 1) buy a couple bottles of wine with those new composite corks in the bottles 2) drink the wine 3) lay the corks on their side under the laptop

    You're welcome.

  12. Cate Eales
    August 21, 2010 at 12:02 am

    A great DIY project is: 1) buy a couple bottles of wine with those new composite corks in the bottles 2) drink the wine 3) lay the corks on their side under the laptop

    You're welcome.

    • Aibek
      August 21, 2010 at 12:22 pm

      sounds interesting, got a pic?